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Davis, California

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Yolo County raises awareness to reduce infant deaths

As part of the national observance of April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness month, the Yolo County Children’s Alliance and Child Abuse Prevention Council (YCCA) is taking measures to prevent infant mortalities.

YCCA’s foremost goal is to reduce the incidence of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) for which it is implementing Shaken Baby Program, which strives to inform new mothers, fathers and caregivers of the dangers of shaking babies.

The Davis Rotary Club and the Sutter Davis Hospital each donated $10,000 to support the program, while the Yolo County Celebrity Fashion Show contributed additional proceeds.

The Shaken Baby Program aims to increase knowledge about the fragility of babies’ heads, said Katy King-Goldberg, Step by Step/Paso a Paso program director.

SBS occurs as a result of shaking an infant or young child so violently that he or she is injured and ultimately, severely and irreversibly brain damaged.

As one of the few counties that has an SBS program, YCCA is looking forward to the program’s implementation this summer, said YCCA Executive Director Katie Villegas.

Program coordinators distribute informative materials, such as an informative video, pledge forms and brochures, to parents and caregivers a minimum of two times – once in prenatal care and once in the birthing hospital, Sutter Davis Hospital or Woodland Memorial Hospital. Family support workers will review the consequences of SBS a third time with new parents enrolled in the Step by Step home visiting program.

Shaken baby simulator dolls highlight the delicacy of a baby’s brain. The dolls’ brains light up when they are shaken, demonstrating which part of the brain is damaged, such as the parts that control memory or emotion.

SBS is difficult to diagnose. Doctors have to x-ray the patient’s skull to access SBS, Villegas said. Some consequences of SBS include: brain swelling and damage, hemorrhage, mental retardation, blindness, hearing loss, paralysis, speech and learning difficulties and death.

Some SBS inflicted injuries are not obvious because they occur internally, particularly in the head or behind the eyes. However, in severe cases, the baby will become limp and lethargic and ultimately pass out. Furthermore, babies who survive significant SBS cases may require lifelong medical care or even institutionalization.

Sometimes, parents or caregivers shake their baby if they feel frustrated as a result of the baby’s incessant crying. SBS can occur due to ignorance of consequences combined with frustration.

There is a large space between a baby’s brain and its whole skull because a baby’s brain has not grown to its full size. It also takes a few months (sometimes six to eight months) for a baby’s neck muscles to become strong enough to support its head, King-Goldberg said.

SBS usually affects children up to about two years of age, King-Goldberg said. By the time a child is two, he or she generally has some speaking capabilities. However, prior to two years of age, babies communicate by crying.

“Crying can mean so many things. The more communication they have, the more the caregiver can figure out,” King-Goldberg said.

To care for a crying infant, parents can run a vacuum cleaner or dryer within hearing range of the infant because they like white noise. Parents can also take the baby for a walk in a stroller or a car ride.

Villegas encourages parents to utilize available resources such as the Yolo Crisis Nursery if they are frustrated with their baby’s crying. Caregivers may drop their babies off at the crisis nursery anytime of day or night if they need immediate assistance or call at 758-6680.

“Every child in the nation deserves to be safe,” said Judy Wolf, Chair of the Rotary Club of Davis Child Abuse Prevention Program.

The Davis Rotary Club’s Child Abuse Prevention Committee holds Big Night, an annual fundraiser to support Yolo County programs. To date, the Big Night fundraiser has collected approximately $250,000 to help prevent child abuse in the community.

Only approximately 1 percent of funds dedicated to child abuse go to primary child abuse prevention, Wolf said.

“The country doesn’t get it,” she said. “It’s not putting money into upstream causes of child abuse.”

THERESA MONGELLUZZO can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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